Youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2014/2015
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by the Correctional Services Program
The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), enacted in 2003, is the legislation that governs how youth aged 12 to 17 years are to be dealt with by the Canadian justice system. The Act provides for a separate youth justice system that is meant to protect the public while holding young persons accountable in a manner that is proportionate to their level of maturity and the seriousness of the offence. Within this legislative framework, set by the federal government, the provinces and territories are responsible for administering youth correctional services in Canada.Note 1
This Juristat article presents an overview of youth correctional services in Canada for 2014/2015. The article uses three measures to describe the utilization of correctional services—average counts, initial entry and admissions. Average counts provide a snapshot of the youth corrections population on any given day; initial entry provides an indication of the number of youth entering the corrections system during the year; and admissions measure the flow of youth through the system by counting youth each time they begin or move to a new type of custody or community supervision (see Text box 1).
Data on average counts come from the Youth Corrections Key Indicator Report, while data on initial entry and admissions come from the Youth Custody and Community Services Survey and the Integrated Correctional Services Survey. It should be noted that not all jurisdictions were able to report data for 2014/2015. Average count data are not available for Quebec and are limited to custody counts for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Alberta, meaning nine jurisdictions provided overall average counts. Admissions data are likewise available for nine jurisdictions with Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta being the exclusions. These same four jurisdictions plus Manitoba were unable to provide initial entry counts in 2014/2015.
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Rate of youth in correctional services decreases
- In 2014/2015, there were 7,966 youth aged 12 to 17 years being supervised in either custody or a community program on any given day in the nine reporting jurisdictions.Note 2 This equates to a rate of 54 youth in correctional services for every 10,000 youth in Canada. The rate of youth in correctional services among reporting jurisdictions fell 14% from the previous year and was down 31% from five years earlier (Table 1).
- Ninety percent of youth under correctional supervision in 2014/2015 were supervised in the community.
- Most jurisdictions followed the overall downward trend in the correctional population. The exceptions were the Northwest Territories, which had a 38% increase in the rate of youth in correctional services between 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, and Saskatchewan, where the rate remained unchanged. For the Northwest Territories, it was a jump in the community supervision rate (+45%) that was responsible for the overall increase. Of the jurisdictions that reported a decrease in rates from the previous year, Ontario’s was the largest at -21% (Table 2).
Youth incarceration rate declines
- Under the YCJA, the youth justice system is meant to reserve its most serious interventions for the most serious crimes and reduce the over-reliance on incarceration.Note 3 In 2014/2015, in the 12 reporting jurisdictions, there was an average of 1,040 youth being held in some type of custody on any given day.Note 4 This translates into a youth incarceration rate of 6 per 10,000 youth (see Text box 2). The rate was down 12% from the previous year and 26% from 2010/2011 (Table 1).
- British Columbia had the lowest incarceration rate among the reporting provinces and territories in 2014/2015 with a rate of 2 per 10,000 youth. Manitoba had the highest rate of incarcerated youth at 26 per 10,000 youth (Table 2).
- Since 2007/2008, youth held in pre-trial detention have outnumbered those held in sentenced custody. In 2014/2015, the rate of youth in pre-trial detention was 3.1 per 10,000 youth, while that for sentenced custody was slightly less at 2.5 (Chart 1).
Rate of youth supervised in the community continues decade long downward trend
- There are a number of community sanctions available under the YCJA.Note 5 As well, the legislation mandates that every period of custody should be followed by a period of community supervision to assist youth in their rehabilitation and reintegration. On average, there were 7,139 youth being supervised in the community in nine reporting jurisdictions on a typical day in 2014/2015 (Table 2).Note 6 The majority (90%) of youth being supervised in the community were on probation.
- British Columbia reported the lowest rate of youth in community supervision in 2014/2015 at 21 per 10,000 youth, while the Northwest Territories had the highest rate at 163.
- The rate of community supervision was down 31% in 2014/2015 when compared to five years earlier, a figure that is similar to what was reported for the incarceration rate (Table 1).
- The rate of youth under community supervision has been trending downwards for more than 10 years (Chart 2).
Nearly half of all youth begin their period of supervision in probation
- Initial entry measures the number of youth commencing a period of correctional supervision and provides an indication of new workload entering the corrections system. In 2014/2015, there were 5,538 initial entries of youth into correctional services in the eight reporting jurisdictions.Note 7 This was down 15% from the previous year. Nearly half of all youth began their period of supervision in probation (47%) (Table 3).
- In 2012, the YCJA was amended in order to simplify decision-making regarding pre-trial detention and ensure that youth be managed in the community where possible. In 2014/2015, just under one-third of youth (30%) started their period of correctional supervision in pre-trial detention.Note 8 This was up slightly from 29% five years earlier.
Admissions to correctional services decline
- In 2014/2015, the total number of youth admissions to correctional services among the nine reporting jurisdictions fell 15% to 17,752 admissions.Note 9 Admissions to community supervision fell by 19% and admissions to custody fell 10% (Table 4).
- The majority of reporting jurisdictions had decreases in admissions to both custody and community supervision. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were exceptions, having reported increases in custody admissions (11% and 14% respectively).
Youth in correctional services predominantly male
- In 2014/2015, just over three-quarters of youth admitted into correctional services were male (77%).Note 10 The findings were about the same for both custody and community supervision (Table 5).
Older youth account for the majority of admissions to correctional services
- In 2014/2015, the majority of youth admissions to correctional services in the nine reporting jurisdictions involved youth aged 16 to 17 at the time of admission.Note 11 This was particularly true for custody admissions where 16- and 17-year-olds accounted for 59% of admissions, while the proportion for community admissions was somewhat lower at 52% (Table 5).
- Youth aged 12 and 13 accounted for 4% of all youth admissions to correctional services; the figure was the same for custody and community. While youth aged 18 years and older represented 7% of admissions to custody, they accounted 20% of those to community supervision.Note 12
- Among all youth admitted to correctional services in nine jurisdictions in 2014/2015, the largest proportion of admissions (24%) were males aged 17. The number of male admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services tended to increase with age while for females the phenomenon was less pronounced (Chart 3).
Aboriginal youth continue to be over-represented in the correctional system
- There were just over 5,700 Aboriginal youth admitted to correctional services in nine jurisdictions in 2014/2015, representing 33% of admissions.Note 13 This percentage was unchanged from the year before. By way of comparison, Aboriginal youth aged 12 to 17 account for about 7% of the youth population in the nine reporting jurisdictions (Table 5).Note 14
- In 2014/2015, Aboriginal females accounted for 44% of female youth admitted to the corrections system, whereas Aboriginal males accounted for 29% of male youth admitted. These figures are virtually unchanged from the previous year.
- Sentencing principles in the YCJA mandate that the Court consider alternatives to custody, particularly in the case of Aboriginal youth.Note 15 In 2014/2015, 52% of Aboriginal youth admitted to correctional services were admitted to custody whereas the comparable figure for non-Aboriginal youth was 42%. Conversely, 48% of Aboriginal youth were admitted to community supervision compared to 57% of non-Aboriginal youth.Note 16
Length of time youth serve unchanged
- In 2014/2015, the majority of youth (81%) released from pre-trial detention in nine reporting jurisdictions were there for one month or less. This figure was unchanged from five years earlier (Chart 4).
- For youth released from sentenced custody in 2014/2015, almost half (46%) were there for one month or less, with 91% spending six months or less. In 2010/2011, the comparable figures were 45% and 93% respectively.
- Just over half (51%) of youth released from probation in 2014/2015 were supervised for one year or less and another 35% were supervised for more than one year and up to two years. These results were similar to five years earlier.
- Females tend to be under correctional supervision for shorter periods of time. For example, 87% of female youth were released from pre-trial detention after one month or less in 2014/2015, compared to 79% of male youth. Similarly, for sentenced custody, 56% of females were released after one month or less, whereas for males the figure was 43%.
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Description for Chart 1
|Years||Incarceration rate1||Sentenced rate||Pre-trial detention rate2|
Description for Chart 2
|Years||Community supervision rate1||Probation rate|
Description for Chart 3
|18 years and older||11.7||2.1|
Description for Chart 4
|Length of time served1||Pre-trial detention||Sentenced custody||Supervised probation|
|1 month or less||80.7||45.7||0.7|
|Greater than 1 month to 6 months||17.0||45.3||7.9|
|Greater than 6 months to 1 year||1.4||5.6||42.3|
|Greater than 1 year to 2 years||0.6||2.6||35.1|
|More than 2 years||0.3||0.7||14.0|
Detailed data tables
Table 1 Average counts of youth in correctional services, nine jurisdictions, 2014/2015
Table 2 Average counts of youth in correctional services, province and territory, 2014/2015
Table 3 Initial entry of youth into correctional services by legal hold status, eight jurisdictions, 2014/2015
Table 4 Admissions of youth to correctional services, by province and territory, 2014/2015
Table 5 Admissions of youth to correctional services, by characteristics of the person admitted and supervision program, nine jurisdictions, 2014/2015
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Average counts provide a snapshot of the youth corrections population and represent the number of youth in custody or under community supervision on any given day. Usually, corrections officials perform daily counts of youth in their facilities and monthly counts of youth under community supervision. These are used to calculate the annual average daily custody and community counts used in this report.
Initial entry represents the first point at which a youth commences an uninterrupted period of supervision within the youth corrections system. Each person is counted only once during their period of involvement with correctional services, regardless of subsequent changes in legal status.
Admissions for Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics surveys are counted each time a person begins any period of supervision in a correctional institution or in the community. These data describe and measure the flow of persons through correctional services over time. The same person may be included several times in the admission counts where he/she moves from one correctional program to another (e.g., from pre-trial detention to sentenced custody) or re-enters the system later in the same year. Admissions therefore represent the number of entries of persons during a fiscal year to pre-trial detention, sentenced custody or a community supervision program, regardless of the previous legal status. These data are administrative data. Even though surveys try to standardize the way the data are reported, limitations due to differences in jurisdictional operations can restrict uniform application of the definitions in some situations. Therefore, caution is required when making comparisons between jurisdictions.
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The youth incarceration rate represents the average number of youth in either secure or open custody per day for every 10,000 individuals in the youth population (12 to 17 years old). It includes youth in sentenced custody, youth in Provincial Director remand being held following the breach of a community supervision condition, and youth in pre-trial detention awaiting trial or sentencing.
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The Youth Corrections Key Indicator Report provides data that are used to calculate average counts of youth under correctional supervision. Usually, correctional officials perform daily counts of inmates in their facilities and monthly counts of offenders under community supervision. The following exclusions are noted for historical data: Prince Edward Island (2005/2006 for data on community supervision); Nova Scotia (2006/2007 to 2014/2015 for data on community supervision); New Brunswick (2004/2005 to 2014/2015 for data on community supervision); Quebec (2011/2012 to 2014/2015); Alberta (2013/2014 for data on both custody and community supervision and 2014/2015 for data on community supervision); Northwest Territories (2004/2005 to 2007/2008 for data on community supervision).
The Youth Custody and Community Services (YCCS) Survey collects aggregate data on the number and characteristics (e.g., age, sex, Aboriginal identity) of youth admissions to and releases from correctional services. The following jurisdictions reported survey data in 2014/2015: Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
The Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS) collects microdata on adults and youth under the responsibility of the federal and provincial/territorial correctional systems. Data include socio-demographic characteristics (e.g., age, sex, Aboriginal identity) as well as information pertaining to correctional supervision legal hold status (e.g. pre-trial detention, sentenced custody, probation). The following jurisdictions responded to the ICSS in 2014/2015: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.